Saturday, January 2, 2010

Terrorism and Optimism

Could it be that this post about the pitfalls of "positive thinking" is linked to this article about terrorism and fear?

Here is a quote from the New York Times article cited in the first post about Barbara Ehrenreich's new book about the dangers of false optimism:

As for Ms. Ehrenreich, she believes that negative thinking is just as delusional as unquestioned positive thinking. She hopes to see a day when corporate employees “walk out when the motivational speakers start talking,” she said. “It’s all about control and money.” Her goal? To encourage realism, “trying to see the world not colored by our wishes or fears, but by reality.”

And here is a quote from the latter article about the effects of terrorism narratives on the United States population:

John Adams, in his 1776 Thoughts on Government, put it this way:

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

As Adams noted, political leaders possess an inherent interest in maximizing fear levels, as that is what maximizes their power. For a variety of reasons, nobody aids this process more than our establishment media, motivated by their own interests in ratcheting up fear and Terrorism melodrama as high as possible. The result is a citizenry far more terrorized by our own institutions than foreign Terrorists could ever dream of achieving on their own. For that reason, a risk that is completely dwarfed by numerous others -- the risk of death from Islamic Terrorism -- dominates our discourse, paralyzes us with fear, leads us to destroy our economic security and eradicate countless lives in more and more foreign wars, and causes us to beg and plead and demand that our political leaders invade more of our privacy, seize more of our freedom, and radically alter the system of government we were supposed to have.

Seems like another take on the hope and fear paradigm I spoke about in yesterday's post. It's important to recognize that this isn't just about personal delusions - the shiny, swollen hopes and disembodied spirits of fear have seeped into everything.

This is the world we have been given to awaken in. An interesting challenge, don't you think?


Richard Harrold said...

“trying to see the world not colored by our wishes or fears, but by reality.”

Gee, sounds a lot like the entire point of Buddhism.

Jomon said...

I was at a non-Buddhist event in which the leader asked people to consider what we take refuge in...

Several people said they take refuge in hope. And while I can see how this can be a balm in many ways, indeed, it is a future-oriented stance. One that wants either something different than what is right now, or wants some specific future outcome.

And while I did not have the image of hope as a sugar-coated shitball at the time, I am impressed that you have now given it such a vibrant metaphoric life.

Great topic, great posts.

Algernon said...

A very interesting book appeared several years ago entitled, "Are We Scaring Ourselves To Death?" that documented the way news is selected and promoted, and its relationship with politicians. It demonstrated not only how elements of real danger were exaggerated for maximal effect, but that the focus on these exaggerated stories often came at the expense of real and far more dangerous stories that did not get attention.

As journalists are being laid off and replaced with political hacks who work cheaper, the process is being used to corral the public and manufacture concensus.

The technology would dazzle the eyes of Adams, Washington, Franklin, and Payne -- but its uses would not surprise them a bit.

spldbch said...

Things are neither as good nor as bad as we tend to think they are.